“ Type: Live Entertainment „
== What? ==
The Soulbook tour is supporting the release of Rod Stewart's latest album also entitled "Soulbook" which is described as '13 soul classics'. Essentially Rod has robbed several old Motown tracks and re-recorded them in his own style.
The tour promised to contain tracks from the new album along with Rod's greatest hits from his now lengthy career and will visit several European cities. We caught Rod at the O2 in London.
== The Band ==
Rod Stewart first entered the music scene as part of the 1960s bands The Small Faces and the Jeff Beck Group before going solo way back in 1969. In the intermediate 40 years between then and now Rod has scored 62 "hit" singles and gained numerous fans, particularly young women from his 1970s heyday. With such a hugely successful back catalogue, most people will be familiar with at least one of his hits.
As part of his entourage, Rod has a blonde female saxophonist (plugging a solo album), a second male saxophonist ("He left music and set up a market stall. But I got him back!" Rod proudly proclaims). There are two guitarists (one of whom makes playing extended solos look as painful as being kicked in the nuts) and a drummer locked in his own perspex box. A glamorous violinist provides string accompaniment or ukelele when required and three backing vocalists round off the team.
== The Stage ==
As with most events I have seen at the O2, the stage is located at one end of the arena with some large video displays at the back on which are projected close-up images of the performers for those of us at the back, too far away to get a good view. Essentially there is nothing special about the setup at all.
== Highlights ==
Not being a massive fan of Rod Stewart, I went trying to keep an open mind and I felt the following were the good points of the show:
1. Maggie May
Everyone has heard this golden oldie and despite being as old as the hills, it is still a classic and an excellent finale to the main set. And 20,000 people singing along just added to the charm of an old favourite.
2. Do You Think I'm Sexy?
Despite the fact that there is nothing sexy or appealing about a dishevelled 65 year old "shaking his ass", there is something amusing about it. In fact, despite being wrong on every level Rod being egged on by 20,000 howling fans made me smile. But then I have a twisted sense of humour...
3. Some Guys Have All The Luck
The song itself, in my opinion, is nothing special. Rod dedicated his performance to his father:
'This was my Dad's favourite Rod song. He was a great scotsman. SCOTLAND!!'
'YEAH!!!' cheer 19,999 people on cue.
'Boo!' yells one cheeky audience member.
'I'll give you f***ing boo' yells Rod leaning over the edge of the stage shaking his fist at aformentioned rascal in the stalls.
4. Handbags and Gladrags
One of Rod's earliest singles released way back in 1969 and proving that he does indeed still have it. Vocally anyway. His raspy vocals lend a real depth to the tune showing the recent cover version to be the cheap pastiche it really is. 'The Stereophonics eh? Anyone remember them?' taunts Rod.
5. Baby Jane
The final encore track and the one Mrs Ben waited for all evening. The smile on her face was worth the price alone. Quality.
== Lowlights ==
As with anything in life, there were some downsides:
1. The Costume Changes
Through the course of his set, Rod had four costume changes including a 12 minute interval (yes - exactly 12 minutes, just like he said), all of which proved to be completely pointless. At various times Rod came on wearing an orange silk jacket, a purple silk suit, a light blue waistcoat and something I have forgotten. Costume changes are fine, but within the space of a few bars, Rod would remove his jacket/waistcoat, his shirt would come untucked, his tie would slip and he would look like some kind of old degenerate. Why waste the time changing when the outcome is always the same?
During one of the costume changes, Rod left us in the company of his backing vocalists and band who subjected us to a rendition of the largely instrumental "Soulfinger". Although well-performed a large chunk of the audience disappeared back to the bar through sheer boredom.
A tune I really do not really like because (in my opinion) it is onerous and uninspiring. Rod did try and liven the performance by having footage from the recent 70th anniversary Dunkirk evacuation re-enactment broadcast on the screens behind him. An inspired choice which did bring some interest to the song although I very much doubt fans in the Berlin concerts will be treated to the same display!
4. New Material
Because of my age and gender I do not fall into the classic Rod Stewart fan category, and because Rod is going _back_ in time to find "new" material he is not aiming to attract me as a listener either. I am not into Motown, soul or swing and despite Rod's obvious ability to sing such music (his voice fits perfectly - I think Macey Gray might be his lovechild), songs like "Love Train" and "Rainy Night in Georgia" just do not do it for me.
5. The Video Footage
Having been spoilt by U2 with their multi-million pound video extravaganza last year (see my other reviews for details), Rod's backing graphics came across like the very worst of cheap-n-nasty Powerpoint presentations. The video montages were haphazard, the graphics looked very cheap and in reality the whole thing was a waste of money. It would have been better to stick to close-up footage of the performers and forgetting the flourishes, swirls, cartoons and other distracting junk.
== Merchandise ==
A selection of fairly average t-shirts including a brown one which I hated but Mrs Ben thought it was the best one there. We shunned t-shirts for our collection this time as even Mrs Ben felt that Rod Stewart was not cool enough to advertise on her clothing. In a nod to his 70s heyday, there were classic-style Rod Stewart scarves available helping emulate an old episode of Top of the Pops when held aloft by the audience.
== Overall ==
Despite being old enough to better, both Rod and fans have a ball together, transporting themselves back to their respective youths and glory days. Stewart certainly has a great, soulful voice and is an accomplished performer but his newest material seems somewhat hollow and, importantly for soul music, soulless. The mass exodus for the toilets when the new material surfaced is an obvious indicator of the audience reception; not positive for the most.
That said, the oldies were incredibly well received and the audience participation nearly blew the roof off at times. If this were a greatest hits only tour, it would have been damn near perfect.
=== Key info ===
What did it cost? After combining travel, food, tickets and merchandise, about £220 (being defrauded by ebay seller 20mich01 added an additional and unecessary £60 to the total)
Would I go again? Maybe. If Rod cut out the new stuff, definitely.
What did it taste like? Hoegaarden because the Becks chiller was broken and I had to have bottled beer instead. Won't be making that mistake again.
What did it smell like? Hotdogs. I was too near the exit and the smell kept drifting into the arena.
What did it sound like? At best, the maddest 70s disco ever and at worst, some backing vocalists demonstrating why they are just backing vocalists.
What did it feel like? Like I was well out of my depth hanging out with my parents.
Overall what was it like? Probably a bit like attending a youth club disco in the 70s. Not bad and certainly not unpleasant.
== Links ==
Rod Stewart's website: http://www.rodstewart.com
© ben-lloyd 2010. This review may appear on other websites under the same user name.